Posted on August 28, 2015
For those of you who know me, you will know I am not a proponent for thoughtless Christianity, but for those of us who are inclined to the analytical, we need reminders that we think well in order to enact well and I’ve found Francis of Assisi to be a helpful voice to encourage me;
Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to 5. Heart is used 42 times to 1 use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only 1 time.
This is a very new perspective that is clearly different from (and an antidote to) the verbally argumentative Christianity of his time, and from the highly academic theology that would hold sway from then on. Francis took prayer on the road and into the activity of life itself, which is why the Franciscans popularized the portable, small psalter that we still call the breviary (brevis or short handbook). – Richard Rohr on Francis
The loudest voices in Christianity often seem to be ones advocating for the ditches on either side of the metaphorical road. Of course, we are tempted to be drawn to one ditch or another, but attempting to argue there is only one ditch is what has led to a fragmented in-fighting bride. Our Spiritual formation and discipleship would do well if we immersed ourselves in voices that call us not only to what we already believe and practise but also to the other side.
As is well known, the first Christians identified themselves as The way, with Christian being a later and derogatory label meaning “Little Christ’s”. I wonder if Christianity would look any differently if we have clung to the first label? The Way which is a clearly naming that christianity has to be practised not only intellectually considered. Maybe a name would not be enough, but those who go on the way without thinking will eventually lose their way, and those who think without practising the way will be the most tragically positioned of all in eternity.
In Jesus’ famous statement in John 14:6 it is worth us paying attention the order in which he says first;
1. I am the way.. – We only enter into Christian life through our steps and actions
2. I am the truth.. – We encounter truth not as information but through the participation in the way, unto the realisation that truth is God made flesh, the very person of Jesus not solely factual statements regarding Him.
3. I am the life – Jesus catches up our lives, which become his breath in us, life is for living as the saying goes, and that living extends far beyond our intellectual ascents.
Now maybe Jesus didn’t intend the progression structure I have overlaid on his words, but I think the realities described do mirror many of our experiences in how we move forward in Spiritual formation and Discipleship. We must practise, reflect and live in order to follow Jesus.
Posted on August 25, 2015
This week Scot McKnight wrote an interesting piece worth reading here. Scot Argues that the characteristic of zeal amongst evangelicals works in two ways;
1. To challenge the sufficiency of scripture by creating identities around extra-biblical boundary markers
For example, the bible says not to be drunk, some evangelical circles may add to this by affirming that drinking alcohol at all is unadvisable if not sinful. In this way although they may stop short of calling their extra-biblical additions sinful it is clear this behaviour dictates whether you are in or out of this particular sub-set of the Church.
2. Zeal creates immunity to accusation
How can someone be mad at someone who, in their enthusiasm, goes above and beyond (a trait the protestant work ethic has always held in high regard)? Scot McKnight argues that this is motivated ultimately by a fear of freedom, a fear that if we left it to the average believer to read the scripture in the presence of Holy Spirit, the outcome may not be the extra-biblical boundary markers the denomination or sub-group was formed around.
Zealotry, at its bottom layer, is the unwillingness (1) to trust God to work in others, (2) to trust others to listen to God, and (3) to trust ourselves to do what God wants. The ambiguity created by freedom is fearful to many, so they make fences and laws — and in so doing, they create a bounded society of zealots who convince themselves that, even though the Bible does not say something, what they are saying is really what the Bible wanted after all.
This temptation to decide what the bible wanted after all is certainly a deep one. We are desperate as I mentioned in an earlier post, to be clear about which group we are in, and that we are addicted to propping our personal and group identities up with second-order things
- which bible translation,
- a view on baptism or communion etc,
- a leaning towards a certain spiritual gift / preaching / prophecy / healing etc.
rather than unifying themes which are certainly more predominant in the new testament.
Inheriting a Protest
In this way we are inheritors of the protestant reformation, the only issue is, as one of my theology professors was keen on saying;
“Protestants are a group of people gathered around protest, the only trouble is, they’ve forgotten what they are protesting against”
I have often concluded this foundational identity of protest is the DNA that continues to encourage the fragmentation of the church, as we have historical-amnesia for the reasons behind the reformation and conclude we are to protest against one another. We are finding ever more minute and petty ways to fragment ourselves instead of marvel at the grace and revelation that exists in the varying church traditions from which we can draw and be nourished.
So we fracture based on our interpretations of scripture, but after all we do need to interpret scripture, right? But what I am getting at here is how we build identities around interpretations. I am more and more convinced we do this not because our primary desire is to be rigourous or even faithful in our interpretation but in fact the strongest desire of most Christians is to belong to a sub-group of Christianity.
But God’s invitation is for us to belong to Him first and foremost. I am not however creating a trajectory for the “lone-ranger believer” phenomena that exists in Christian history currently, but talking about the importance of how we understand our identities as related to God and other Christians.
The Bible is often not as clear as we would like
While I affirm most evangelical interpretations of scripture, We often feel frustrated at the ambiguity of scripture towards issues we want black and white backing for. But before bemoaning what we wish scripture was clear on, we should recognise what is present in the texts. What is present is significant and ordained by God as sufficient for the Church. Depending on how you count there are 76 or 92 One-another statements in the scripture, practical exhortations about how to relate to one another, so clearly the authority of scripture is majoring on this rather than the mulititude of social and moral issues we might like to have pages of scripture dedicated to.
The reason we go beyond the Bible is because the biblical summons is ambiguous, or not as concrete as we might like. There are other reasons, most of them not good. – Scot McKnight
So I began thinking, what interpretations do I affirm, that I would struggle to make a solely scriptural foundation for1, and I came up with a few, maybe you have some?
My rule of thumb for doctrine and interpretation is that there are enough devout, prayerful and Godly people through the history of the church that most interpretations that have continued to have two or more sides over time, are not easily conclusive from scripture (I have picked a short list that I would affirm the traditional evangelical view on but am being honest in saying I can’t argue solely from texts – maybe you can, if so jump in on the comments below).
- A Ceremony being the biblical starting point of a marriage
- Children may not be baptised until an age of accountability
- Not giving all your possessions away
What are on your list?
I heartily recommend reading through Scot’s post, it certainly made me consider how evangelical zeal operates in a way that actually undercuts many foundations of the tenets of evaneglicalism and may actually be subverting our ability to have a witness of unity amongst the church. We are tempted to feel like the fragmentation of the Church is due to our fidelity but often, it seems, it is down to our insecurity.
- which is not to say, I only affirm things I have proof-texts for, but if the protestant community is gathered around affirmations such as sola scriptura then arguing out of logic or tradition that doesn’t have some clear basis in scripture should trouble us. ↩
Here’s a collection of sounds from around the world that you may never have heard before.
A few radio stations (in the US especially) run ‘live lounges’ and here are some bands you’ve likely never heard of.
I doubt everyone will like all of these but you might find something that you can enjoy this weekend (these are from KEXP in Seattle );